Vikings Film Review: Minnesota made history in win over Colts

(Photo by Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports) Greg Joseph
(Photo by Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports) Greg Joseph /

The Minnesota Vikings made history when they erased a 33-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15.

The Minnesota Vikings road to 11-3 has been in one of the most absurd fashions in recent memory. Nearly every win has been decided by one score, and two have gone into overtime.

The Vikings have both blown leads and led incredible comeback efforts. Fans seem to never know what to expect from this team, and they are getting comfortable being uncomfortable. It is four quarters of an emotional roller coaster watching Minnesota.

I had the pleasure of watching this last game against the Colts at a bar in Tampa, Florida. By the end of the game, and the party I was with had transformed the place into a Vikings bar. SKOL chants were coming in waves, and the amount of purple passion that shifted in the bar was similar to the momentum shift that ensued in the second half of the game.

How were the Minnesota Vikings able to overcome a 33-point deficit and beat the Indianapolis Colts?

Like most of Minnesota’s wins this year, it always starts with leadership from the top down. Kirk Cousins was outstanding in the second half, throwing for over 400 yards and four touchdowns. Veterans such as Harrison Smith coming back after missing last week was big for a defense that seemed lost in recent weeks and bounced back in a huge way.

Cornerback Duke Shelley played every defensive snap for the Vikings and led the team with a PFF grade of 83.9, with two pass breakups and three tackles. Shelley has stepped up in a big way at corner for Minnesota this year ever since his huge end zone pass breakup on Dawson Knox against the Buffalo Bills in overtime in Week 10.

The 5-foot-9 corner is as scrappy as they come and he brings a physicality much needed to a defense that has its best football ahead of them.

For a comeback of this magnitude, the Vikings needed to be excellent in all three phases of the game – offense, defense, and special teams. In the first half, Minnesota was awful in all three phases.

They allowed the opening kick to be taken past mid-field, threw a pick-six and had a punt blocked, all attributing to their 33-0 halftime deficit.

In the second half, the Vikings looked unstoppable offensively, Greg Joseph was perfect on the day, including when he hit the game-winner from 40 yards away, and the defense did something Minnesota fans have not seen a lot of this year.

For the first time in what feels like the entire season, the Vikings blitzed the quarterback. They were able to get pressure on Colts quarterback Matt Ryan by sending extra defenders, and they ended up only allowing three points in the second half.

Offensively, the Vikings stars took the game over in the second half. Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook both scored touchdowns and had over 90 yards receiving. They also had players step up, such as K.J. Osborn, who led the team in receiving with 10 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown.

During Minnesota’s second drive of the second half, they were faced with 2nd-and-12 with no signs of life offensively. Kevin O’Connell spread the field wide with an empty formation, and the Colts played cover-2 against it.

You can tell it’s cover-2 by the two-high safeties and the alignment of the corners. When identifying coverages, the first place to start is always with the safeties because they will tell you right off the snap what time of shell the defense is in.

With two high safeties pre-snap, it’s a good indicator the Colts are playing some variation of a two-high shell coverage. They can still be in man, cover 2, cover 4, or even cover 6, but it helps to narrow it down to a few coverages before the cadence even begins.

The alignment of the corners tells us that it’s cover-2 because they are playing “sticky” or tight to the receivers vs. a cover-4 or quarters look that would have the corners playing with more of a cushion.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

The technique used by the corners post-snap is the clearest indicator of cover-2. Their backs are to the sideline, and their eyes are on the quarterback (a clear indicator of zone coverage).

They are also using a shuffle technique rather than a back-pedal as they don’t necessarily have to carry the receivers deep, and they have to make a break on the ball in the flat if needed.

The Vikings ran a great play against this coverage with a four verticals concept. So schematically, they had four receivers downfield against the Colts’ 2-high safeties. Due to the formation being 3-by-2, it was up to K.J. Osborn to cross the field and get to the opposite seam to complete the concept.

Justin Jefferson was the checkdown underneath, which attracted attention from the linebackers and freed up Osborn down the field for a 64-yard gain.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

This play began the greatest comeback in NFL history. It provided the spark Minnesota needed and Osborn put the cherry on top of the drive with a touchdown just a few plays later.

I absolutely loved the screen call by Kevin O’Connell that completed the comeback. Another 64-yard play from one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses came at a point where the Vikings needed it most.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Where Minnesota took advantage of a cover-2 look earlier in the game, they took advantage of a cover-4 look to tie it up.

The Colts ran cover-4 to the field, but man to the boundary, which is called cover-4 “x” as the “x” receiver is what teams typically tag their boundary receiver.

In this case, Jefferson was the boundary receiver and was manned up, with T.J. Hockenson also being played man-to-man by Indianapolis linebacker Bobby Okereke. The Vikings ran a tunnel screen to Dalvin Cook to the field where the Colts were in quarters coverage.

The quarters coverage had the defense dropping back, which gave Cook all the space he needed to get into the open field and across the goal line for Minnesota’s fifth touchdown of the game.

Vikings fans will remember this one for a long time, but there are still three critical weeks ahead and a No. 2 seed in the NFC on the line that the team currently controls. A big matchup awaits in Week 16 against a New York Giants team looking to keep itself in control of a wild-card spot.

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